Know Your Words

Accountants: We’ve Got Your Number

Generic accounting
Apparently, the generic images of accounting are just as lame as the definitions.

I hate to be there bearer of bad news, but there is turmoil in the accounting profession. The bean counters and statement jockeys (?) are pissed, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Spreadsheets are being deleted, No. 2 pencils broken, ties loosened and top buttons unbuttoned. What has caused this uproar? A definition.

Perhaps you caught wind of this, for it was all over the news in recent weeks: accountants are unhappy with the Oxford English Dictionary‘s (OED) definition of accountant.

According to the website Accountancy Daily, accountants are much more than bean counters and spreadsheet jockeys (which no one ever calls them). To change this perception, they’re encouraging their comrades to sign a petition urging the OED’s editors to “‘update the definition of accountant to bring it in line with modern-day approaches to the role.'”

According to the aforementioned article, “the OED’s definition of accountant currently reads, ‘a person whose job is to keep or inspect financial accounts.’” Mr. Gary Turner, the co-founder of the cloud-based accounting platform Xero, would like it to be changed to “‘a person whose job is to keep or inspect and advise on financial accounts.'” Turner’s aim is simple. He wants the OED’s definition to “‘better reflect how much the role of an accountant has changed in the last two decades.'”

Naturally, the Butter Lamb had to look into this. Kerfuffles like this play right into the BLRL’s wheelhouse and gives the library a chance to flex its referential muscles.

But let’s start at the beginning. I looked accountant up in the (Compact) Oxford English Dictionary and was met with the following definition: “One who professionally makes up or takes charge of accounts; an officer in a public office who has charge of accounts.”

Okay, that is not very descriptive. Maybe Mr. Turner has a point. Although there are no accountants at the BLRL, it’s clear this definition falls far short of what an accountant does … probably.

Still, I can’t help but wonder why there’s such a focus on the OED. In addition to there being a host of other well-known dictionaries both in-print and online, there are a host of dictionaries devoted to the subject of accounting out there. Shouldn’t the definitions in these books carry some weight here, or at least be used to inform the discussion?

Surprisingly, the BLRL has one of these dictionaries (or in this case a “glossary”), in its collection: the Running Press Glossary of Accounting Language. So, with the aim of righting this vocational wrong, I cracked its cover and hoped for the a worthwhile definition to share. Much to my surprise, what I found, “one skilled in accounting,” was actually worse than the one I found in the compact OED. Yikes.

To be fair, the Running Press Glossary Accounting Language was published in 1978, so it’s not exactly hot off the press. Hence its lackluster definition. I am happy to report, however, that the book somewhat redeems itself with its more vigorous and expansive definition of accounting, which the bean-counter brigade might approve of. It reads:

The classification, recording, and interpretation of business transactions so that periodic statements can be prepared to indicate either the historical results of these transactions or the financial condition of the business.

That’s better, right? Maybe the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary could borrow some of this verbiage, or perhaps similar words from the many other dictionaries devoted to the subject, for its updated definition.

________________________________________________________

Note:

Apparently, the Running Press Glossary Accounting Language is available as an e-book here.

Know Your Words

Dictionaries to the Rescue

mw-tweet

The morning after the election, I tweeted something along the lines of, “If there is a silver lining to the election of Donald Trump, it’s that it should inspire a lot of good punk rock and metal over the next four years.”

Little did I know that, in addition to these forthcoming musical gems, this knuckle head’s rise to power would also get the folks behind some of our lexicographical institutions all fired up!

This whole thing started last Sunday, when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told Chuck Todd of NBC that that Trump Press Secretary Shawn Spicer was offering “alternative facts” when he told reporters that, “[The crowd at Trump’s swearing-in] was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.”

Not missing a beat, Merriam-Webster began making fun of the Trump administration through its Twitter feed, taking Conway to task for trying to sell “alternative facts” as, you know, a thing.
mw2
“A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality,” the dictionary company said in a  tweet that linked to a Merriam-Webster posting about how look-ups for the word “fact” spiked after Conway’s comment.

As awesome as that initial ribbing was, the story continues to get better as Merriam-Webster has continued to school the Trump administration on its use of words … or at least it’s attempts to use them.

And so, for its continued efforts to educate our “president,” as well as for its success in making dictionaries cool again, we here at the ARLCP tip our hats to Merriam-Webster. Hence our decision to make this lexicographical kerfluffle our “News Item of the Week.”

For more on the dictionary’s revenge, see the following articles:

Subtweet (v.): What Merriam-Webster Dictionary Is Doing to the President
NBCNews.com

Did a dictionary diss Trump team’s ‘alternative facts’?
Politico.com

The dictionary that’s one of Trump’s funniest fact checkers
WCTI12.com

Trump Derangement Syndrome? Urban Dictionary has bashed president every day since inauguration
Washington Times

We Talked to the Genius Behind the Viral Merriam-Webster Twitter Account
Broadly.vice.com